The shoulders have a versatile range of motions. When something occurs with your right or left shoulder, it hinders your ability to maximize your movements and this can result to discomfort and agonizing pain. This can be very concerning, especially if you have no idea of what is causing the problem. Your left shoulder pain may be the result of your daily activities or it can already be a sign of a serious health problem.
This article will discuss the most common causes and symptoms of left shoulder pain as well as the corresponding treatments that you can do to alleviate the discomfort.
Causes of Left Shoulder Pain
Left shoulder pain can be a result of injury or disease of the joint. The injury may affect the tendons and ligaments surrounding the joint. In some cases, it may affect the menisci, cartilage and the bones. Since the shoulders play an important role in performing actions and movements, it has a higher risk of getting an injury. Here are the most common causes of left shoulder pain:
1. Poor Computer Habits
If you are spending long hours in front of a computer every day, you are susceptible of experiencing shoulder pain. Computers are essential not only for studying but also for business purposes. However, people who are using computers can affect their normal posture. Some people become slouched, which a result of poor computer habit. This may lead to muscle spasms, migraine and inflammation of the muscles.
If you are experiencing left shoulder pain due to bad computer habit, here are some treatments that you can do:
- Always take a break from using the computer. When working, there is a tendency that the body slouches without you noticing. You can take a short walk inside or outdoors to give your muscles enough time to stretch. Many specialists recommend taking a break for 3 minutes every half an hour.
- If the chair that you are using is not comfortable for you, consider getting yourself a new chair that gives back, shoulders and neck support.
Bursitis is a common shoulder injury that results to irritation or inflammation of the bursa. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac, located between the tissues, such as muscle, bone, tendon and skin, to counter friction and rubbing. Bursitis is the result of repetitive or sudden impact on the idea or from a serious injury.
One factor that can increase the risk of the inflammation of bursa is aging. Joint injury, sports or overuse of the joint also increase the chances of getting bursitis. Some high-risk tasks include carpentry, painting, raking, skiing, pitching and throwing. Poor posture and stretching can also result to bursitis. Here are ways to treat this problem:
- Rest your shoulder
- Apply ice compress over the injury
- Do not perform any task or activity that can make the problem worse
- Take anti-inflammatory medicines
If you are experiencing fever, swelling, warmth, inability to move or multiple areas of pain, visit your doctor immediately. These could be signs of infection or another health condition that requires medical attention.
3. Frozen Shoulder
Adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder is the inability of the shoulder to move freely. It is also accompanied by pain and stiffness. This may occur due to overuse of the area, injury, or from a disease like stroke or diabetes. Other high-risk factors that can lead to frozen shoulder are:
- Over the age of 40
- Postmenopausal women
- After injury or surgery
- People with severe illnesses
For early signs of frozen shoulder, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help along with the application of heat. Corticosteroid injections and ice may also be used to alleviate the swelling and pain. In most cases, regular physical therapy is the best treatment to increase the range of movements. It may take a year or more to heal a frozen shoulder.
4. Rotator Cuff Injury
One of the most common causes of shoulder pain is rotator cuff injury. The rotator cuff is a group of tendons that stabilize your shoulder joint. The tendons hook up to your muscles that allow you to move your shoulder in many directions. The damage of rotator cuff leads to rotator cuff disease. The pain is commonly located on the front size of the shoulder and it becomes worse when the shoulder moves away, such as when reaching your back or combing your hair.
The rotator cuff can be damaged due:
- Repetitive strains, injury, fall, partial or complete tear of the tendons
- Inflammation from arthritis and bursitis
- Sports such as swimming, baseball and other activities that require a lot of shoulder movements
Without proper treatment, it can lead to permanent weakness and stiffness and may result to degeneration of the joint. Your doctor may recommend imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging.
When the tendons become irritated or inflamed, it results to tendinitis. This will lead to extreme discomfort that makes it hard for the sufferer to move the shoulder. The symptoms of tendinitis include mild swelling, pain when moving the joint or limb and tenderness. These can be caused by repetitive movement for a long period of time or sudden injury.
Severe tendinitis can lead to rupture of the tendon and a surgery is required to repair the damage. In most cases, this condition can be treated successfully with proper rest, regular physical therapy and medications for alleviating pain. If you develop signs of tendinitis, see your doctor immediately.
Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are stiffness and joint pain, which become worse with age. Other symptoms include swelling, redness and decreased range of motion. This usually occurs amongst the elderly people, but the risk factors for arthritis also include obesity, family history and previous joint injury.
Severe arthritis affects your arms and hands, and can make it hard for someone to perform daily tasks. Laboratory and imaging tests such as X-rays, computerized tomography, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging may be required for proper diagnosis. The commonly used medications for arthritis include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Biologic response modifiers
- Yoga or tai chi
Physical therapy is also needed for improving the range of motion while strengthening the muscles. If these corrective measures do not help, your doctor may recommend joint repair, joint fusion or joint replacement.
7. Slipped Disk
A slipped disk is a condition associated with the spine and can cause shoulder pain. The spinal column is made up of series of bones. From the top to bottom, the column has 7 bones in cervical spine, 12 in thoracic spine, and 7 in lumbar spine. They are followed by the sacrum and coccyx. These bones are cushioned and protected by the disks while absorbing shocks from all your daily activities.
A slipped disk occurs when the outer ring is torn or become weak. It allows the inner portion to slip. There are motions that can lead to this condition, such as lifting and twisting. Jobs that require a lot of lifting can increase the risk for this problem. A slipped disk places additional pressure on the muscles and other nerves around it. The symptoms may vary from one to another. Some of the symptoms of this condition include:
- Pain in arms or legs
- Pain at night or painful movements
- Pain when sitting, standing or walking
- Sudden and unexplained muscle weakness
- Numbness on one side of the body
- Tingling, burning or aching sensation
Your doctor will need imaging tests to view your bones and muscles, such as X-rays, discograms, MRI scans and CT scans. If the pain does not respond to OTC medications, your doctor may recommend narcotics to alleviate pain, muscle relaxers or nerve pain medications. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if the condition is affecting the function of your muscles.
8. Dislocated Shoulder
The shoulder is our body’s most movable joint, which is why it is prone to injuries and dislocation. Dislocated shoulder is an injury in which the arm’s upper bone pops out of the socket. This requires immediate medical attention. Other symptoms of dislocated shoulder include intense pain, inability to move the joint, swelling, and visible deformation of the shoulder.
If you or someone you know has dislocated shoulder, get medical help immediately. While waiting for your doctor, do not move your shoulder. Do not try to move it back in the right place as it can further damage the joints and the surrounding nerves, ligaments, blood vessels and muscles.
9. Heart Attack
If an extreme pain like heartburn is followed by a left shoulder pain, there is a chance that you are experiencing a heart attack. A heart attack is the death or damage of heart muscles from a sudden blockage of coronary artery. Coronary arteries are responsible for supplying the heart muscle with oxygen and blood. The blockage of coronary artery by blood clot keeps the heart from getting oxygen and blood.
The most common symptom of heart attack is pain in the chest. Other symptoms of heart attack include a tingling sensation in your left arm running up to the jaw. If this happens, call an ambulance right away.